Jurgen Klopp has denied suggestions that captain Jordan Henderson is to blame for Liverpool’s poor performances this season.
The Reds’ midfield has attracted plenty of criticism this season, with many pointing to the age of most of Liverpool’s regular starters. At 32, Henderson is the oldest of the bunch, behind only 37-year-old bench option James Milner.
Henderson has started ten of Liverpool’s 17 Premier League games this season and has been kept on the bench for big games against Chelsea, Tottenham and Manchester City over the past few months, but Klopp was adamant he has no problem with Henderson when addressing the media ahead of the Merseyside derby.
“I don’t understand why we’re talking about one player,” Klopp said. “Hendo, everybody knows how much respect I have. Hendo is not our problem, never was and never will be.
“When he is ready, good shape, he played 98% of the games we had. He hasn’t [started] for two or three games, but came on. He played all these games because he’s a very, very, very important player for us. That’s the only reason.
“When he’s not playing, you miss that. It’s as easy as that. But there’s nothing. Yes, he’s very important.
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“If we missed something from Hendo, but all the rest [of the players] were there, we wouldn’t miss it that much. This is a team story. If you want a manager story, nothing else. No individual players, no individual members of staff.”
Instead, a frustrated Klopp argued that Henderson’s drop in performance is down to the fact that the midfielder has played a whopping 91 games for club and country since the start of last season.
“People don’t want to hear it because it sounds like an excuse,” Klopp laughed. “There must be reasons for what we did this season. We don’t turn into bad people overnight, or we lost the football brain or stuff like that.
“On top of confidence, losing momentum, some physical things as well. They are clear. Other players from other clubs have similar problems, they cannot play the season they played last year. For us, it’s not too important. The last season was long ago, we try to manage things like workload as much as we can. We couldn’t do it, particularly up front when everyone who was healthy had to play.
“When you have changes up front, you want a settled midfield where it’s clear what is happening. It’s not always workload management, it’s not that easy.”